Transparency and the food we eat

Like many others, we have often wondered where most of our meat comes from and what’s in it. When was the last time any of us had the chance to visit an industrial farming or mariculture operation to learn the answers?

Much has been written about our diminishing visibility into conventional agriculture, and the secretive nature of intensive farming has become a growing source of public consternation in recent years. These modern farming realities have entered the darkest corners of our imaginations, inspiring brilliant demonstrations, dystopian art, and bold activism across the globe.

When it comes to seafood, the industry practices are just as troublesome as they are on land. Beyond the general acceptance of pervasive contaminants and problematic activities in fishing and seafood production, perhaps the greatest affront to consumer trust is the marked decline in traceability.

Most people are surprised to learn that the overwhelming majority of fish caught in the US is shipped abroad to China for processing (often with multiple freeze-thaw cycles) prior to returning to the United States for sale, creating nearly insurmountable complexities for regulation, traceability, and safety. These practices also undoubtedly expand the carbon footprint of much of the seafood that we eat in the United States.

What presents as a mislabeling issue is really a symptom of a larger problem that blurs our knowledge of where our seafood comes from and what is in it. To improve our food system, we believe that we must transform the industry so that it openly engages the public’s scrutiny and curiosity; this is a large part of our work at Wildtype.

We recently hosted students from the Nueva School’s 8th grade class to explore many of the questions and issues surrounding our modern food system, starting with seafood.

School class watching a presentation

8th graders listen as Wildtype’s Gillian Belk and Benny Larson kick off an introductory course to cultivated seafood

Together, we investigated the complexities of fish biology and ecology, the role of fish as nutritious and sustaining sources of food, and the seafood industry’s future prospects. The students saw first-hand how we grow delicious salmon meat directly from cells. They also participated in interactive workshops that centered on questions such as:

  • What is meat, and do we need animals to produce it?
  • What technical issues have precluded large-scale cultivated meat production to date?
  • How could this new type of food be regulated?
  • How do we address consumer concerns about new types of food?
  • What are the best ways to measure and promote sustainable food production?
Student taking notes

A student provides her perspectives on meat and seafood production

The students provided incisive and thoughtful insights into each of these questions. We discussed how we can sustainably meet the exponentially growing demand for seafood without stripping the oceans of wild fish. They offered numerous suggestions, including how to meaningfully engage the public as we introduce cultivated salmon to the world.

Students in a lab

Students complete one step of Wildtype’s production process

As a company, we believe that the best way to mitigate the deleterious effects of seafood production is to ensure that the tastiest and cleanest fish on Earth is also the most sustainable. This starts by replacing hidden operations with open visibility. Some of our contemporaries have already embraced this philosophy, and we hope that this trend continues to grow.

We certainly cannot do this alone. We need future generations to help us create a new food system, one that is built on trust and transparency. As one of the students said, “If we can create fish in this way, we won’t continue destroying the oceans in the future.” If the vision of a 13-year old is a sign of what is to come, we have good reason to look ahead with hope and optimism.

If you would like to learn more, or join us on the mission to re-imagine the future of food, please say hello.

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